Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Del Potro eases back in fray

Meeting Juan Martin Del Potro can be an intimidating experience. Standing 198cm tall – and it was good he was sitting when I walked up to him for this interview – the gentle giant seemed taken aback as I showed him a copy of an interview I had done with him way back in August 2009, just prior to his momentous US Open triumph. “Gosh, that seems like ages ago now,” he exclaimed, obviously pleased at having some great memories revived.

That was four and half years back when he had beaten both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer on way to winning his only Grand Slam title. He still beats the Big Four, as the quartet of Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Federer are referred to, like he showed last year, but every time he seems to be mounting his charge, his wrists start playing truant. First it was his right wrist in 2010 for which he underwent surgery and just when he looked to be a serious threat at this year’s first Grand Slam after winning in Sydney, he was felled by injury to his left wrist.

In Dubai as the second seed for this week’s tournament, the 25-year-old tells XPRESS in an interview why he has decided to tread very carefully, so far as his fitness is concerned.

“My left wrist is definitely not 100 per cent. It has been difficult generating power on my backhand. Every day after regular practice twice a day, I put in an extra 30 minutes on my backhand, so that I get more confidence hitting it. I just need more time on court which is why I am also playing the doubles [with Radek Stepanek] this week,” he said.

A semi-finalist last year, Del Potro came to Dubai over a week ahead of the tournament to prepare himself for what he terms as one of the more important stops in the calendar. “This is a very important tournament for me and it is one of the most difficult tournaments on the ATP World Tour. You have five of the top-10 playing here and then you have Djokovic and Federer among them. They are obviously the favourites, but I have beaten them before, so I do fancy my chances here,” said the man with the killer forehand.

The Argentine has been coming to Dubai for three years now and he has already taken in most of the sights the city has to offer. “Yes, I have made good use of my spare time here. I have visited the Burj Khalifa, the Burj Al Arab, Wild Wadi and I have also had dinner at some very good restaurants. I really enjoy my time here,” he said.

Given his frequent brushes with injuries, Del Potro has understandably kept his goals modest for the rest of the year as he eases himself back into the fray again. “I want to finish in the top-five, so that would be a goal. It isn’t easy to break the stranglehold of the Big Four and although Federer and Murray are ranked below me now, I know they will be back up there soon,” the World No. 5 said.

So, does he see another Grand Slam coming soon?

“I would hope so. Stan [Wawrinka] showed how important it is to hang in there. He might have just hoped for a Grand Slam final at best but with Nadal getting injured the trophy was his for the taking. It gives the other guys a lot of hope,” he said.